Husband and Wife Sentence to Prison for Tax Fraud
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Rudolf Straat, 49, and his wife Maria Gudelis, 45, both of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, were sentenced to two years in federal prison for conspiring to commit tax fraud, mortgage fraud, and money laundering.
Between 2004 and 2012, the husband-and-wife team fraudulently obtained mortgage loans to purchase homes in Florida and Nevada for more than $10 million. In applying for these loans, Straat and Gudelis falsely represented that they were United States citizens when, in fact, Straat is a citizen of the Netherlands, and Gudelis is a citizen of Canada. In addition, they falsely represented on the loan applications that they were unmarried and made false statements concerning their employment.
Straat and Gudelis concealed income they received on the sales of these homes by transferring the properties into trusts and nominee companies, and by taking other steps to ensure that gains from the sales would not be reported under their personal taxpayer identification numbers.
The couple lived in Sandestin from at least October 2005 through July 2007. During this period, Straat failed to file federal income tax returns for tax years 2005 and 2006, failing to report $364,902 in capital gains for 2005, and more than $689,368 in capital gains for 2006 to the IRS. Gudelis also failed to file income tax returns for tax years 2005 and 2006, failing to report $749,883 in capital gains for 2005, and more than $30,826 in capital gains for 2006. Both Straat and Gudelis used a portion of these unreported capital gains to fraudulently purchase additional properties.
Straat pled guilty to conspiracy and tax charges in December 2012. Gudelis pled guilty as charged in early January 2013. As part of their sentence, Gudelis and Straat are required to pay restitution in the amount of $575,814 to the IRS and $5,188,459 to the mortgage lenders they victimized.
United States Attorney Marsh praised the work of IRS-Criminal Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations, whose joint investigation led to the convictions in this case. “Mortgage fraud harms not only lenders, but honest homebuyers and the community at large through increased housing costs,” Marsh said. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute criminals who try to game the system by manipulating the mortgage loan industry and cheating on their taxes.”
James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation, stated, “Mortgage fraud impacts the entire country by weakening faith in the financial system. IRS-CI’s goal is to help restore confidence in the financial system, both the public tax system and the private banking system, through our aggressive investigation of violations of federal laws, no matter where in the world these investigations take us. It is with the cooperation of the talented individuals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office that our agency and others can work together towards this common goal.”
Nestor Duarte, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Jacksonville FBI Office, stated, “The FBI identified mortgage fraud as a threat to not only the banking industry, but the financial sector as a whole. To that end, the FBI, working with its partners in the banking and mortgage industry purposely identified groups and individuals, both domestically and internationally, who willingly participate in these criminal schemes and diligently work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring about successful prosecutions."
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Eggers.